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15 Minutes With Your Doctor; Ransoming Health Records

Every week Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: How Much Can Patients Learn In A 15-Minute Doctor Visit?
Built more like a former professional basketball player than an elementary schoolteacher nearing retirement, the patient dropped a bagful of prescription medications on the table in the examining room and fell back into a chair. He couldn’t remember what most of them were for. Several weeks earlier, he had seen a new doctor who’d prescribed several new drugs and spent much of the visit reciting a list of advice — lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables. Before he even arrived home, he realized he couldn’t recall any of the details of what the doctor had said. “I felt like I was in a Charlie Brown cartoon,” he said, recounting the visit with a laugh. “All I can remember the doctor saying was, ‘Waw, waw-waw, waw-waw'” … Faced with an impossible task, some physicians have thrown up their hands and chosen to focus on only a couple of topics at each visit. Others have resorted to handing out typed lists of the recommendations for patients to read at home. But an increasing number of doctors, under mounting pressures from insurance companies and others to prove that they are delivering quality care, are simply scrambling to cover as many of the wellness recommendations as they can, piling on the dos and don’ts in what a colleague of mine once referred to as “the grand information dump” (Pauline W. Chen, 8/16).

ABC News: For Ransom: Your Medical Records
The hackers penetrated the computer network of a small medical practice in a wealthy suburb of northern Illinois … and broke into a server containing email and electronic medical records. But instead of sneaking out undetected and selling the stolen data on the black market, they took a novel tack — encrypting the data and posting a message demanding a ransom payment in exchange for the password.  The move from fraud to extortion in cases of data compromise is frightening for several reasons. First, it suggests that the criminals knew exactly what they were doing, and that they deliberately targeted digital medical records as part of a well articulated strategy — an approach that we can expect to see employed more frequently as the digitization of records and broadening of access become the norm in the health care industry. Secondly, this M.O. implies a tremendous confidence in the criminals’ power to disrupt. …  All of this is ultimately made possible by the digitization of medical records and the placement of those records on networks — often unprotected ones (Adam Levin, 8/22).

Mother Jones: Wham, Bam, Sonogram! Meet The Ladies Setting The New Pro-Life Agenda
“We’re having a party,” Charmaine Yoest tells me when I arrive for a lunch meeting at her office on a sweltering summer day in Washington, DC. I’d expected a one-on-one interview with the charismatic president and CEO of Americans United for Life, the legal arm of the pro-life movement, but she’s brought along four other women. … It’s all part of the girls club environment that Yoest and her colleagues cultivate, distancing AUL from other, largely male-dominated pro-life organizations. … Outside Yoest’s fourth-floor corner office hangs a large print that could pass for a Mondrian in black and white. She informs me that it depicts a human DNA sequence. “We wanted to do something that was nonbaby,” she says. Keeping things nonbaby (has) … made AUL one of the most effective anti-abortion organizations in the country. … No pictures of infants decorate its headquarters, and the bloody fetus posters common at anti-abortion rallies are conspicuously absent. The only obvious nod to the unborn is a Dr. Seuss quote on the wall above Yoest’s desk: “A person’s a person, no matter how small” (Kate Sheppard, August 2012).

Huffington Post: Prognosis Unclear
When President Obama enacted the health care reform law in 2010, it was supposed to discourage some patients from turning to hospitals for routine care by extending health insurance coverage to tens of millions of people. That law, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, may shift non-emergency patients away from hospitals, but many health care professionals still have lingering questions. What’s really going to change when those millions of Americans are covered by health insurance, when access to regular medical care is improved and skyrocketing health care costs start to be reined in? Some worry that the health care reform law may not deliver on its promises, or that if it does, it will bring with it a new set of problems (Jeffrey Young, 8/10).

CBS News: Doctor Uses Salons To Encourage Healthy Living In The African-American Community
(Dr. Reed Tuckson, a former Washington, D.C., public health commissioner) has made it his personal mission to enact changes towards healthier living in the African-American community, and he believes the place to start is the beauty shop. … Because the salon is such an integral part of the African American neighborhood and a place where women frequently socialize, he believes that if he can teach the hairstylists about healthy living they can pass the message on. “A big part of (the obesity epidemic) is that African American women are not exercising nearly enough,” (Tuckson said). “The more we dug into exercise, we found out for a significant (number of) people the amount of money … spent on their hairstyle and the amount of money that they spent on upkeep, it is inconsistent to them (to ruin it with) exercise” (Michelle Castillo, 8/17).